By Janie Walenda
While last week’s episode took place during recent MCU events, this week we return to the beginning of the MCU. “What If…Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?” brings us back to the world of 2008’s “Iron Man,” but this time with a Wakandan twist. I genuinely enjoyed seeing these worlds collide and the world of Wakanda being cemented in Marvel history.
The episode opens on the familiar scene from “Iron Man” where Tony’s convoy is attacked and he sees the missile with his name on it. But this time Erik Stevens, otherwise known as Killmonger, rescues him by tossing the missile away. In gratitude, Tony makes Erik his right-hand man, unaware of Erik’s ulterior motivations.
This was Killmonger’s episode, and he owned it. While his plan was a bit overcomplicated, that didn’t diminish how enjoyable it was to watch him execute it. During the final battle, I thought he had been lying to the Wakandans and the robots wouldn’t shut off. When they did, I was caught off guard, and it made the rest of the episode that much more suspenseful. It’s nothing that an observant viewer couldn’t pick up on, but the episode does a great job revealing Killmonger’s plan only in bits and pieces.
It was great to see pre-Iron-Man Tony Stark again, and the episode uses him very well. While Robert Downey Jr. didn’t return, it’s barely noticeable thanks to Mick Wingert’s excellent impression. The writing for Tony was hilarious, especially his one-liners. The only nitpick I have is, once again, the character design. Overall his design was great, but the hair was a lot shorter than it was in “Iron Man.” It’s not important, but it did bother me the whole episode.
After T’Challa is killed midway through the episode, we see what Wakanda looks like without him. Watching all of the character’s reactions to his death was heartbreaking and gives us a taste of how “Wakanda Forever” is going to play out. While the supporting cast of characters is more than capable of carrying the storyline, T’Challa is nevertheless sorely missed.
Somewhat surprisingly, Ramonda is the standout Wakandan character. Angela Bassett returns to voice Wakanda’s queen and T’Challa and Shuri’s mother. The reveal that she is Wakanda’s general instead of Okoye is great, adding some great history to the character. Her final shot of destroying the robots and crying “For T’Challa” is the strongest emotional beat of the episode.
It’s fun to see kid Shuri, and her presence emphasizes her position within the royal family, something that will be important in “Wakanda Forever.” Okoye only had one line this episode and used it to roast Americans once again.
The biggest complaint I have about the episode is the ending. While “What If…?” is not known for satisfying endings, this episode has less closure than the others. Even in the episodes with cliffhangers, the main storyline for the episode was wrapped up. Meanwhile, this episode ends with a strong tease for the continuing story. There wasn’t any closure for Killmonger’s character arc or any answer on whether he ultimately succeeds in his plan.
Thanks to the mid-season trailer, we know that we’ll get to see a continuation of this episode, but it doesn’t make the ending any less frustrating. I think the episode should’ve ended on the shot of Killmonger in the throne room and had the interaction between Pepper and Shuri be an end-credit scene. Not only would the story have flowed better, but it also would have meant better story progression in “What If…?” as a whole.
While this episode wasn’t as high-concept as the past few episodes, it was still a well-made, entertaining episode. It’s not my personal favorite, but I know many people consider it to be one of the best. That’s one of the show’s strengths: with a wide variety of genres and characters, there’s something for everyone.
Episode six of “What If…?” is now streaming on Disney Plus.
Janie Walenda is a freshman Global Business major and an A&E writer for Cedars. She enjoys musicals, movies, and rereading the same books ten times.